Hackers make a copy of everything on your device; they access data on your phone while getting details like passwords, PINs, and bank logins.
To protect yourself from this menace, it is important to understand how this trick works. So what is phone cloning, and how do you protect your mobile phones or reverse phone cloning on your devices?
What Is Phone Cloning?
Phone cloning is the reprogramming of a mobile phone’s identity into another device. It involves unauthorized tampering with someone’s telecommunication device. Hackers and other criminals make anonymous calls by cloning a phone since the call will be traced to another person.
The original owner of the phone will be billed for all outgoing calls. Since this is a form of fraud, it is considered illegal in most countries, and it attracts heavy penalties.
Every mobile phone has a unique identifier known as the IMEI number. SIM cards also have their unique serial numbers known as ESN numbers. To clone any mobile phone, a hacker must steal these numbers and use them to reprogram the chip inside a phone into another device. The radio signal of the clone will be slightly different from the original signal. This disadvantage can alert a service provider to this threat and possibly help them trace the clone.
Once a phone is cloned, the hacker has access and control of the original line. They can send and receive messages, make and receive calls, and even listen in on your calls. The latter will be possible only if the original and cloned phone are around the same broadcast tower. The biggest danger phone cloning poses is the intercepting of calls and messages meant for the owner of the phone. This window allows a hacker full access to lots of personal data.
How To Reverse Phone Cloning
The most effective way to reverse phone cloning is to contact your phone company. On request, they will help you to block the clone from accessing the information on your phone. A representative assigned to your query will ask you for information to be sure you are the real owner. Once you pass this test, the representative will then reprogram your phone to give it a new IMEI number.
Once this unique identifier is reprogrammed, the phone cloning will be reversed, and the clone will no longer have access to your data. It is your responsibility afterward to always keep your phone with you so no one can clone it.
How to check and tell if your phone is cloned
Option 1: Using a shortcode
Check if the IMEI number of your phone matches the one displayed when you dial *#06#. To get your IMEI number on iPhones, go to Settings >> General >> About >> Status >> IMEI information
To get your IMEI number on Android phones, go to Settings >> About Phone >> IMEI number.
Option 2: Using phone location data
Use the location of your device to find out if it has been cloned. To check your device, use the “Find My iPhone” on Apple phones or the “Find My Device” on Android phones. If this reveals more than one location where your phone is used, someone else has access to your phone.
Option 3: Using the build number
Check if the build number of your device is the same as the model online. To check the build number, go through the same process above to check the IMEI number. The build number is usually listed under the IMEI number. Type the build number on Google and check if the model matches your phone model. If it doesn’t, your phone has been cloned.
Other red flags you should also look out for are:
Irrational behavior by your mobile phone. Your phone should run smoothly without any issues. But all of a sudden, you start noticing some weird functionalities like overheating, clicking sounds when making calls, or the camera app launching without prompts.
Another sign is if your contacts are getting text messages from your phone number without your knowledge. Also, if you send someone a text message and the recipient gets a second message that you did not send right after the original message is delivered.
Another way to know if your phone is cloned is by analyzing your phone bill. Do you think this bill is outrageously higher than what you are expecting? If so, request a comprehensive call history from your carrier. If you find out that you were billed for calls you never initiated, your phone is likely cloned.